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While melanoma is often considered to be one of the most dangerous cancers, the disease actually has a high 10-year survival rate - greater than 90% - when caught in its earliest stage.
*Source: The American Cancer Society
 

Melanoma Overview

WellStar Health System provides superior care for melanoma, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition WellStar offers innovative advances in the fight against melanoma, including:


  • Advanced dermatologists who specialize in melanoma and who practice state-of-the-art care.
  • A wide spectrum of diagnostic and interventional treatments - including ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), PET/CT imaging.
  • Surgeons who specially trained to remove the melanoma and assess the extent of spread with a sentinal lymph node biopsy
  • A radiation therapy department with state-of-the-art equipment and therapies.
  • A Tumor Board, comprised of a multidisciplinary team that meet regularly to review complex cases
  • Clinical trials - making novel therapies available to patients.

Melanoma begins in melanocytes, cells that produce the pigment melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanoma often begins in a mole, and is most curable when caught before it has spread to underlying skin tissue and lymph nodes, so it is very important to be aware of moles on your body and watch for changes.


Since sun exposure and tanning beds are believed to increase risk for the disease, sun exposure should be limited and tanning beds avoided. Both cause premature aging of the skin and place it at greater risk for cancer.


Melanomas can occur under fingernails and toenails and also on the bottom of the feet. They also can occur in the eye and, much more rarely, in the intestines or spinal cord. The vast majority of melanomas, however, occur on the skin.


Symptoms

Symptoms of Melanoma include:


  • Change in a mole
  • A new mole, especially one that looks different from previous moles.

It is important to look for the "ABCDE's" of any previous or new mole. WellStar dermatologists recommend paying special attention to these characteristics of moles, which have been identified by the American Academy of Dermatology:


  • A for Asymmetry - both halves of a mole should be similar.
  • B for Border - moles should have regular borders. Irregular borders are common in melanomas.
  • C for Color, or changes in color - an existing mole that changes color should be checked out.
  • D for Diameter - look for any new growth in a mole larger than - inch.
  • E for Evolving - watch for changes in a mole over time. A mole that itches or one that hardens should be brought to the attention of your WellStar physician.

Risk Factors

  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as from the sun or tanning beds.
  • Having fair skin, light colored eyes, or both
  • Having been baldy sunburned at an early age
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Weakened immune system
  • Having more than 50 moles
  • Having a type of mole that is large and has irregular colors
  • Living near the equator or at a very high elevation